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ADF Commands the Dance Floor Beginning Thursday

Professor Barbara Dickinson on what to look for in a new season of dance


Fan favorite Pilobolus leads off the 83rd season of the American Dance Festival.

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The colorful busses have been spotted throughout East Campus and Durham, a sign that the American Dance Festival (ADF) is back for its 83rd season.

A new season of exceptional performances begins Thursday night with perennial favorite Pilobolus. Meanwhile, hundreds of dancers from around the world will fill East Campus for classes in the popular six-week school, including special WFSS (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday) classes.

It’s one of the favorite times of the year for Barbara Dickinson, a professor of the practice of dance for the Duke Dance Program where she teaches Modern Technique, Repertory, Performance, Choreography and Dance History. She served as Dance Program director for 18 years.

As with the Full Frame Documentary Festival, the ADF brings a distinctive spirit to the Duke community. For the next six weeks, there will be conversations about dance on every corner around campus. They’ll talk about the nine world premieres, the five ADF debuts and the many extras, such as theater pieces and dance and movement-themed movies. 

Dickinson says the ADF is more than great performances and classes. Below, she shares five things that has her excited about the new American Dance Festival season:

1. So many young dancers are fascinated by competition shows such as “So You Think You Can Dance,” and thousands are trained in studios that perform on the competition circuit. These are models of training that emphasize the tricks and the physical virtuoso of dance instead of subtlety of expression and a wide range of physicality. It is therefore interesting that forms of training have been developed that aim to “go deep into our process” as Elizabeth Corbett said in a video about William Forsythe. Corbett will teach Forsythe Improvisation Technologies and Phrase work for the six-week school.

2. Classes in Gaga – Ohad Naharin’s Movement Language.  This is another training technique that aims to expand the range and sensitivity of dancers. It used by the Batsheva Dance Company in Israel. It is becoming increasingly popular with dancers across Europe and in the United States.

3. Many other classes in the six-week school and in WFSS emphasize the importance of process and deep work in movement. Dancers with the ability to delve deeply become the great artists of our time. It is something we are extremely concerned with in the Duke Dance Program, and we are happy to share that important concern with ADF.

4. There are so many wonderful artists among the faculty of ADF, many of whom will not have an opportunity to show their work. Take Nia Love for example, who is a choreographer and installation artist. Indeed, even her works presented on a stage take on the visual interest of an installation. She is one of many artists investigating dance outside of the proscenium theater, taking a space as is and seeing what can be made of it. So as well as going to the performances, taking an ADF tour and watching or taking classes, why not investigate one of these fine artists and see if they will have a conversation with you about their work.

5. Combine the aspects of deep process and the viewing of dance outside of the proscenium theater and go watch one of Eiko’s free performances at the Durham Farmer’s Market, Weaver Street Market or the Cameron Village Regional Library in Raleigh. Watch Koma in his mobile trailer. Don’t go to be entertained, but to live the experience with Eiko or with Koma.

Below, RIOULT Dance NY interprets ancient Greek myths through dance in "On Distant Shores."

Distant Shores at ADF